The state of human rights in Iran is actually going from bad to worse: execution rates, politically motivated arrests and imprisonments, prolonged imprisonments without trials, denial of access to lawyers and sham trials, denial of medical treatment to prisoners, persecution of minorities and floggings and amputations…all are on the rise.
All of these cruel punishments reflect the insensitivity of the regime to the demands of the Iranian people and the fear that the regime experiences from any prospect of change that would weaken the ideals of the Islamic Revolution. To make matters worse, all of these punishments run, in fact, counter to the constitution of Iran and/or counter to international laws which Iran has formally and legally accepted – Flogging is banned by international law as a form of torture.
The latest cases of floggings offer a clear indication as to the stubborn, inhumane and even desperate nature of the regime which are backlashing the popular vote of “moderate” and “reformist” elements in the government and in parliament. These hardliners are viciously reacting to signs of change in the hope of preserving the status quo. These floggings should be stopped for two simple reasons: a) physical punishments such as these should be banned world-wide because of their inhumanity, b) most of the cases of floggings are politically motivated and are not administered to hardened criminals and c) the judicial system in Iran is inherently flawed and many of these “criminals” do not have the luxury of a “fair trial”..
Real people and real suffering
Here are a few of the known and prominent cases of floggings in Iran:
- 35 students received 99 lashes each for attending a mixed gender graduation party.
- 17 miners received 30 to 100 lashes, steep fines and 36 months in jail each for protesting getting fired from an IRGC gold mine.
- Keyvan Karimi, a Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker, received 223 lashes and one year in jail for his movie on graffiti in Tehran.
- Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi are Iranian poets who were sentenced to 421 lashes and 26 1/2 years in jail for their poetry and for kissing each other on the cheek.
- 18 civil rights activists were sentenced to 74 lashes and 9 days in jail for protesting the imprisonments of their loved ones in front of Evin jail.
- Farshid Fathi, a Christian convert received 74 lashes and 5 years in jail for trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
- Alireza Gholipor, a political activist, received 170 lashes and 39 years in jail for a list of political “crimes”.
- Five activists receive 30 lashes and three months in jail for holding up a protest sign in a football stadium.
- Masoumeh Zia, a member of a spiritual group, is sentenced to 74 lashes and one year in jail for protesting the arrest of the group’s leader.
Other cases include Christian converts and Baha’is for being despised minorities, political prisoners and their relatives for criticizing the regime, artists who crave creative freedom, young ravers who want to dance and party, fashion models who dared to share pictures of themselves without hijabs, dog owners in Tehran walking their dogs, people chewing gum during Ramadan etc…Notice that these aren’t murderers or rapists but are men and women who, in another country, would not even be arrested let alone flogged.
For a full list of floggings in Iran (7,440 cases from 1999 up until 2013), please visit this site and make sure to look for offences of “morality/religious”, “political/speech” and the ubiquitous “other/unknown”. And if you want to get an idea as to the laws regarding flogging in Iran, you might want to visit this site.
The politics of floggings
The regime in Tehran continues to claim that there is no problem of human rights at all in Iran. The narrative from Tehran on this issue is two-pronged: a) human rights cannot be judged by global standards but should be viewed on a local context according to the laws of the state and b) the pressure by the West on Iran in regards to the state of human rights is baseless since it is politically motivated. The first point, the global-local perspective, is understandable – citizens of a country enjoy rights that are accorded by the governments that they chose. The problem is that most of these travesties of justice are actually in contradiction with the Iranian constitution and/or international laws which Iran has formally and legally accepted. The second point, the politicization of human rights, is equally understandable – the West is pressuring the regime politically to improve the human rights of its citizens but that doesn’t mean that the numerous infringements of human rights in Iran are not real.
It seems counter-intuitive that human rights would deteriorate following the elections of “moderates” and “reformists” in the government and in parliament and following the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. If most of the Iranian people voted for a “moderate” president and “reformist” MP’s, would it not be logical that social changes would follow? The answer to this question is the Iranian standard “yes” and “no”. It is precisely because of the popular vote of the people for change that the hardline elements in the regime, from the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei through to the hardline politicians and mullahs and the governing bodies of the regime (the IRGC, the Assembly of Experts, the Guardian Council, the Basij etc…). The backlash against Rouhani and his nuclear deal is being paid by the Iranian civilians who felt that the times were “a-changing” only to find that the promises of some politicians had changed but the tone of the regime remained the same.